— 1 —
“The road that stretches before the feet of a man is a challenge to his heart long before it tests the strength of his legs.” — St. Thomas Aquinas
— 2 —
I had planned on touching a little upon the ongoing trip that Pope Francis is making to the United States. After thinking about it for awhile last night and again this morning I’ve decided to take a pass. It’s really not my comfort zone right now and I doubt anyone is interested in my thoughts on the matter.
I will say that I believe Pope Francis is neither a Marxist or a bigot. These are popular dismissals coming from both sides of our American political aisle. They is also over-simplified, non-thinking knee-jerk bumper sticker sloganeering. Pope Francis is criticized in this manner for three reasons:
- Americans have become a reactionary, hyper-partisan political people (“Politics uber alles”). Almost everything is seen through a rigidly defined lens of what is considered to be left and/or right.
- Cafeteria Catholicism: So many American Catholics have a poor knowledge of the depths and beauty of their faith. Instead they treat it like a buffet line: “I’ll follow that portion of the faith, but not portion.”
- A growing lack of attention span coupled with a lack of critical thinking skills.
Being a follower of Christ and His Gospel means that you are not defined by partisan politics. I’ve learned from personal experience through interactions with friends in person, online, or strangers, that holding the line on Christ’s teachings when it comes to the issues of the day does not equate with one being popular. That is simply not the way of this world, nor has it ever been. I’ve lost friends in real life and been attacked on Facebook or Twitter by people I do not know (and some I do know), simply for gently discussing an issue from the point of the view of the gospels. (Those who know me just now snickered at my use of the word “gently”. But believe me, it’s true.)
I guess there is a reason why the Church on earth has referred to itself for two thousand years as the Church Militant. When fully engaged on earth as a Christian you will take hits from all sides. I’ve found strength in prayer, the Sacraments, the Mass, and in service to others.
When it comes to the attacks on Pope Francis for what he said or didn’t say this week while in America I can only say that I seems to recall another man who pleased neither side of the political aisle with his message.
We crucified Him.
Addendum: Father Longenecker points out how polarized Conservatives and Liberals have become as well and lists five papal takeaways for both right and left wingers.
Text of Pope Francis’ speech to Congress is here.
Text of his address to the United Nations is here.
— 3 —
Parent/Teacher conferences were yesterday evening at our Catholic elementary school, which means there is no school today. Yet despite the opportunity to sleep in on a free day our sixth-grader asked to be woken up early this morning so that he could be dressed and ride his bike to church to serve at the 8:15 Mass. I’m not sure what his reasons were for this nor do I question them. I’m grateful that he desired to do this at this point in time. Freshly in to junior high as he is these moments could be fleeting and the next time he may just as likely balk at my suggestion that he do so. So for now I’ll gladly accept and be thankful for his unprompted bit of service and this grace.
This week First Things published Rules for Being an Altar Boy at Saint John Vianney Parish for the Liturgical Year 1964. I’m pasting it in full below, and am considering having a framed copy made for our parish sacristy (and perhaps my son’s room).
If you have to sneeze on the altar do so quietly and turn
Your head away from the Holy Sacrament. Please carry
A handkerchief in the pocket of your trousers. No jeans.
Wear good shoes. No sneakers. Arrive 30 minutes early
Minimum: 5 minutes early is 25 minutes late. The bells,
As a crucial part of the Mass, are rung firmly but gently.
It is the unaware altar server who rings them too loudly.
Be attentive. You too are an integral aspect of the Mass.
You are witnessing and abetting a miracle. Always treat
The Mass that way. Your service allows the miraculous
Easier passage into this plane. Never let your cassock be
Stained or sullied. Similarly your surplice. Do not under
Any circumstances drink the wine or eat the consecrated
Hosts. You will be tempted to do so. Resist the Tempter.
You may be late for, or fail to appear for, only one Mass.
If you are late for or miss a second Mass, your privileges
Are suspended. Two boys in nine years have been ousted.
Don’t become the third. Honor the parents who are proud
Of their son and his service as witness to Holy Sacrament.
It is a gift to serve on the altar. Treat your service as a gift.
Listen to the Holy Spirit as you serve. The Mass is ancient
And comes to us directly from the hand and words of God
When He assumed human form in the person of the Christ.
In and through and suffusing every aspect of the quotidian
Is the sacred. Treat Father with respect, but be aware of his
Own complex humanity. The sacristy is not a locker room:
There is no horseplay, no vulgar language, and no shouting.
If you have a problem, or a question, of any sort, or if there
Is anything whatsoever that you wish to speak to me about,
Be assured that I will keep it in confidence, and listen with
Respect for your own miraculous existence, and admirable
Service to the Church Eternal and particularly to our parish.
Finally as to the length of the hair, any length is acceptable,
As long as the hair is noticeably clean. Christ had long hair,
But you can be sure that His was clean. Boys—be like Him.
— 4 —
In his book The Breviary Explained, Pius Parsch explains the difference between private prayer and liturgical prayer. I pray the Divine Office in order to join the voice of my prayer with that of the Universal Church. I pray because I know that at that moment, around the world (and most especially in my time zone) hundreds of thousands are praying along with me. During that time I am not alone.
The breviary is above all the prayer of the Church, the prayer said in the name of the Church. It is helpful to understand the difference between private prayer and liturgical prayer. In private prayer I pray, mostly, for myself and my own affairs. It is the isolated person who stands in the centre of the action, and the prayer is more or less individualized. But in liturgical prayer, and therefore in the breviary, it is not primarily I who am praying, but the Church, the bride of Christ. The object of her prayer is broader, too: all the needs of God’s kingdom here on earth. In liturgical prayer, I feel more like a member of a great community, like a little leaf on the great living tree of the Church. I share her life and her problems. The Church is praying through my mouth, I offer her my tongue to pray with her for all the great objectives of redemption, and for God’s honour and glory.
Of course I’m not alone during private prayer either and that is my one-on-one time with Jesus. I cherish that time and place great value on it. But just as we humans will “participate” in the big game by talking about it with a buddy at the office water cooler, or among 90,000 screaming fans at the stadium, prayer affords us similar opportunities.
I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude. – Blessed Card. Ildefonso Schuster, Archbishop of Milan, 1929-54
Source: New Liturgical Movement
— 5 —
Sometimes we miss the moment trying to capture the moment. Just stand there and enjoy. This woman, watching the Pope in New York City yesterday, gets it.
Source: Twitter via @JamesMurphy